Cristobal Zero - The Japanese

Home
Back to All Expedition Vehicles
So here we are. Alistair got destroyed several months ago. We wanted to resume our tour and chose the Americas as next destination. But this time we absolutely did not want to ship our vehicle. So we had to find or build an expedition vehicle there... In itself, just this was an adventure per se.
Click on pictures to enlarge them.

Yes, we are happy. We just got our new travel companion. And vehicle. When it comes to the house on wheels, let's be patient and meet later with Cristobal 1.
So, how did we get there ?
As we had fitted it, Alistair was a nice "live around" solution. However, when we got closer to the poles, either in Norway or in Tasmania, the wind, the rain and the cold became a concern. And so were the bugs, mosquitoes or midges. This time, for the Americas, we opted for a "live inside" solution i.e. a van body. The perfect candidate for us would have had:
- 4WD factory (not conversion)
- cab over engine (better use of the wheel base)
- wheel base max 115 inches for maneuverability (Alistair was 110")
- diesel (more torque, more energy per liter, non explosive -- minimum 3.2 liters displacement engine)
- manual transmission (more engine brake torque, hence safer)
- van body (no pop-up tent. Instead, walls with a better insulation)
- overall dimensions close to a Defender 110 (again, for maneuverability on narrow tracks)
- second hand, to keep the budget low.
The closest we found to our wish list was a Land Rover Forward Control (101"). When LR submitted the prototype to the UK army in the 70's it did not raise much enthusiasm. A legend says that officers could not put a map on the bonnet and sit their cup of tea on the mudguards, as they did with the classic Land Rover models. So, only a few thousand 101 were built, which explains why they are so rare. This ad was somehow a good surprise. Unfortunately this one was in... South Africa. And our several months search in North America was in the end unsuccessful. The only few vans we located were 4WD conversions, expensive and heavy. And automatic. And gasoline. And had a much longer wheelbase.
We decided to explore a different way: get a "carrier" that would match our wish list and attach to it a "box" or a "camper". We got this perfect candidate near Vancouver. It was just perfect! Check the features:
- 4WD factory
- cab over engine
- wheel base 98 " (even less than Alistair's 110")
- diesel, 4.6 liter displacement engine, 4 cylinders (great torque) and the crowning touch: no electronics!
- manual transmission
- overall dimensions close to a Defender 110
- second hand
This is a Mitsubishi Canter FG538B (called Fuso in North America). We were lucky to get a narrow version (yet it seats three thin people). Vintage 1994 with only 40 000 km on the clock! Being a Japanese import, the steering wheel is on the right! Perfect! Who in the Americas might want to steer a right-hand drive truck? Probably less than a left-hand one. Besides, since the gear stick is on the left side, it makes it even less appealing. I have been driving left-hand cars on both sides of the road (Europe vs UK, Ireland, Thailand, Australia), right-hand cars on the left side (a rented one in New Zealand). The last combination was driving a right-hand truck on the right side of the road. So be it! And honestly it is much easier than driving anything on the left side of the road! A side benefit I had not thought about beforehand, that I discovered driving on a very narrow dirt road: I can drive as much on the right as possible, escaping most corrugations (washboards) and relaxing more when passing another vehicle.
How do we compare dimensions with a Defender 110 (or with a Toy HZJ)?
OK, these pictures anticipate the next chapter, about Cristo 1 The Moose and its camper.
Actually it was only a couple of months after we started heading north with Cristo 1 that we saw this well fitted Defender driven by a nice European couple to whom we send our warmest greetings.